D ear Younger Riki,

So exciting to be going to camp with friends! But remember that camp is not a continuation of school — there’ll be other great kids there. Your school friends may immediately find kindred spirits among the new faces. Remember not to tag along on their ride. Instead, give them space, look around the rest of your bunk, and see who else is there. Be friendly to everyone, be yourself, and be open to finding other girls to have fun with. Maybe you’ll find a great friend this year in camp, or maybe you’ll just have fun as one of a loose group. Either way, your friends will appreciate that you gave them space to form new friendships, you won’t have lost them, and camp won’t come between all of you. Here’s a comforting thought for you to take along, too: Even if there are parts of camp you don’t like, the whole experience is just that — an experience that gives you more experience in life’s ups and downs.

Have fun!

Your very own, Riki Goldstein

Dear Younger Tzipi,

If I really had a way to traverse the years between us, go back in time, and give you a hug, I would.

If I could make you feel less sad as the end of camp approaches and the new school year looms, I would do anything to make that happen.

If there was a way to send this letter back to my teenage self, this is what it would say:

The fun isn’t over, sweetie. I know how you feel leaving camp every August. You feel as if you’re leaving the one place you are understood, appreciated, and liked for who you are — your crazy, funny, spunky, creative, yet also serious self.

You were told these would be the best years of your life, and as each summer ends, you worry that you have very few years left before having to grow up, be an adult, become someone you don’t think you want to be. I wish you knew what I know now; you have an entire life of awesomeness ahead of you. A life where you can be “you,” where you will shine and live your potential every day, and you won’t even need to be in camp to do so.

School isn’t the real world. I know they make it sound that way while you’re growing up, but the real world is a lot more like camp. In the real world you’re not going to sit at a desk all day. You’re not going to be tested on subjects you have no interest in. You’re not going to go unrecognized and unnoticed because you don’t fit in. In the real world — the one I get to live in now — you are honored for being unique. You get to be yourself every single day. You are loved not because you get good marks and do well in class, but because you are you.

I used to think it was only in camp that I could be the person I really was inside. Turns out camp was only a glimpse of what my real future looks like.

If I could travel through time and tell you the one thing you need to hear, I’d say, “Don’t be afraid to go home. Life gets so much better!” I’d go back if I could, but I can’t. And it’s better that way. You know why? Because you don’t need me to tell this to you. You’ll figure it out yourself. And I know that once you do, that’s when you’ll start shining for real.

Don’t be afraid to go home. Don’t be afraid to live life. You’re awesome, and I would know.


Tzipi Caton

(Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 667)